Festive cash blowouts: plan now to avoid one

By Kristin Macfarlane

With less than 200 shopping days left before Christmas, people are being encouraged to save now so they're not forking out lump sums and unnecessary dollars in a last-minute shopping panic in December.

It may seem too early to begin thinking about Christmas for some, but others are already thinking about their purchases or have started buying their presents or club vouchers.

Budget adviser Pearl Pavitt urges people to avoid spending large amounts of money this Christmas and not to spend beyond their means.

She says it's important to start thinking about Christmas now rather than wait until the last minute; it's also time to assess your options.

"It's a good idea to start doing something about your Christmas shopping, but it's also a good idea to explore the opportunities," Pavitt says.

"There's nothing worse than that last-minute shop."

She urges people to avoid Christmas hamper clubs because although you receive a lot of items, they're often not good value. "Items you really want; others you don't," she says.

She says people should consider alternatives - Christmas clubs at their banks or at their supermarkets.

Pavitt says she prefers supermarket Christmas clubs because members are usually given about eight weeks to use their vouchers or points, receive interest on the amount saved and people can buy what they want and benefit from store specials.

Countdown supermarket spokesman Luke Schepen says their Christmas club allows customers to shop smarter.

He says people buy vouchers throughout the year, which allows them to put money aside each week to buy vouchers rather than spending a lump sum closer to Christmas. If customers buy Christmas club vouchers before December and use them in December or January, they get a 5 per cent bonus.

Christmas clubs are also available at New World and Pak'nSave supermarkets.

According to the Pak'nSave website, "the earlier you contribute to your card, the bigger your bonus will be".

At New World, you can also gain Fly Buys points when you make purchases over $25 with your Christmas club points. Any remaining funds are held in your Christmas club account for you to use the following year. When buying gifts, Pavitt says people should look at what sales are on throughout the year and not feel the need to spend large amounts of money on presents.

She was visited by one mum who had borrowed $1500 for her child's first birthday. Pavitt believes people often treat Christmas like birthdays, spending large amounts of money to impress others.

However, they need to be reminded that children don't know how much money is spent on them.

She says retailers such as the $2 Shop are usually appropriate places to buy gifts.

"It's not necessary to spend a lot of money to have a bit of fun."

- Hamilton News

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